Tuesday, 22 November 2011

What to Look For When Shopping For Socks

How Many Pairs of Socks Do You Have?

What type of socks do you wear? Do you ever have a matching pair of socks in your drawer or are you the tidy kind who matches your socks up in pairs before you put them away?  Do you choose 100% cotton or synthetic fibres for your socks?  Do you like plain socks or fancy coloured novelty socks?  Is Father Christmas or Bart Simpson peeping out from your ankle region even as we speak? Chances are that you own lots of different pairs of socks and in this modern world it can be surprising how many kinds of socks that you need to have in your drawer for the different occasions and activities in your life.  Who would have thought that so many decisions need to be made before buying a simple pair of socks?

Ancient Socks

So how did all this sock  wearing thing start?  Who first started wearing socks?  Some type of hosiery has been worn by the human race since the times of our prehistoric ancestors.  Winters would have been incredibly harsh during the last Ice Age, so animal skins were wrapped around their feet and tied at the ankles to keep their feet warm and protect them from the trauma of walking and running on bare earth and rock. The Ancient Greeks took things one step further by making socks from matted animal hairs to keep their toes cosy.  The Ancient Romans followed suit by wrapping their feet in woven fabric or leather,  and the word sock actually derives from the Latin word ‘soccus’ which was a loose sock-like shoe worn by Roman comic actors that could easily be slipped off.

Medieval Socks

By the Dark Ages in Europe socks called ‘puttees’ were being used by religious folks to symbolise their purity. Things really kicked off for socks in mediaeval times, when the wearing of socks became a serious status symbol and sign of wealth among the nobility and most of these early socks were made of wool, silk or cotton.  By the 16th century these ‘must have’ socks were being ornamented with a design on the ankle or side of the sock, called a ‘clock’.  A knitting machine was invented in 1589 that greatly speeded up the process of producing socks, but there were many hand knitters of hosiery right up until the early 1800’s.  The next big development for socks was the introduction of synthetic nylon yarns in 1938 and this started the blending of two or more yarns in sock production which still goes on today.

Modern Socks

So why do we still wear socks today?  Well the main reason that we don our socks in the morning is to keep our feet warm.  Socks also prevent chafing from our shoes and boots, and can add some support for our feet during physical activities such as running.  Socks can also absorb perspiration and help to prevent blisters from forming.  Socks now come in a variety of different materials such as cotton, silk, wool, polyester, spandex, acrylic, and, if you are feeling particularly posh, cashmere! If you are buying cotton socks, look for ones that are 100% organic cotton if you can, as the cotton will have been grown without any dangerous pesticides or herbicides that can harm people and the environment, and has been grown in a sustainable manner that helps the farmers and communities  who grow the cotton. Modern hosiery comes in various lengths and styles from the foot-covering trainer socks, through ankle socks to knee high socks.  What length and style of sock you wear will be determined by your outfit and what you are going to do, so let’s have a look at some of the different types of sock that you can shop for today.

Men's Socks

The staple of men’s socks is the dress sock.  Dress socks are usually ankle length or calf length and can be either a plain colour such as black, grey or navy or patterned in some way.  Originally intended for formal wear with evening dress, dress socks for men are now worn with business suits and even under casual wear like jeans.  As women increasingly wear trousers, they too buy ankle socks to wear and even the dreaded ‘pop’ socks, which are those socks made from fine nylon like tights or stocking that are so unattractive if a skirt or trousers ride up!

Novelty Socks

Recent times have seen the advent of the novelty sock.  These are particularly popular to buy as Christmas or Birthday gifts and can be rainbow striped, with toes, with cartoon characters, with bells, bobbles and anything else that you can think of appliqu├ęd on to them.  Bed socks are also a popular gift purchase and come in many cosy materials and gorgeous colours.  If you are feeling particularly generous buy some cashmere bed socks to really keep your feet warm in luxury!

Different Socks For Different Activities

When it comes to buying socks for outdoor activities, the matter of which socks you choose becomes a lot more serious.  The sock must be appropriate for what you are doing or your performance and comfort can be severely impaired.  For example, if you are selecting running socks you will need socks that will provide stability as you are running as well as wicking any moisture away to keep your feet feeling dry and comfortable.  It is not advisable to wear 100% cotton socks while you are running as these just absorb the moisture and this can cause blisters.  This is particularly important for long-distance runners, and good running socks are made from two lightweight moisture wicking fabrics that also absorb any friction between the layers to prevent blistering.  The feet of the runner will stay dry as the inner layer takes away any dampness from the foot into the outer layer where it can evaporate.  The weight of the sock fabric is also important as a sprint runner will need lighter-weight socks than a cross-country runner who will need a sock that is more durable and heavyweight.

There are a myriad of different activities and sports that you need to buy special socks for, and you can buy walking socks, skiing socks, climbing socks, football sock, rugby socks and hockey socks.  The list of different socks is endless.  There are also socks that you can purchase for health reasons.  Many people buy special supports socks to wear when they are on a long distance flight as they can help to prevent the formation of blood clots in the veins of your legs.  You can also now buy diabetic socks.  People who suffer from diabetes are prone to developing leg ulcers and other foot infections.  Diabetic socks are specially made without seams or wrinkle-prone material to help reduce pressure on the feet and blistering.  They also have a loose, non-binding top so that they do not constrict the blood-flow in the leg and are made to control moisture.

So there are many socks out there to choose from.  When you are shopping think about when you are going to wear your socks and what sports you may be playing in them.  Keep those feet warm, dry and comfortable, as you need them to take you a long way in life!

Image Zara J Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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